Sale of sought after technology to Kyiv places Israel in confrontation with Moscow; in unofficial talks with Israeli officials, Washington convinced by Jerusalem’s argument
In an effort to avoid at all cost, Israeli involvement in the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, Israel refused to sell the Iron Dome missile defense system to Kyiv in order not to annoy the Russians.
The Iron Dome missile defense system in operation during the May 2021 fighting with Hamas
Israeli efforts over the summer, took the possible sale of the advanced technology off the table to the disappointment of Kyiv.
The matter demonstrates the predicament Jerusalem finds itself in, since Russian deployment in Syria means the two countries in fact share a border.
The government believes the Biden administration and congressional leaders understand the need for Israel to tread lightly, and exhibit a “responsible and sensitive” behavior, when it comes to supplying its defensive weapon, according to sources.
The Iron Dome missile defense system was developed jointly by Israel with the Pentagon. The agreement between the two nations does not allow for the sale of the technology to third parties without mutual consent.
Its popularity in the wake of the May 2021 military conflict with Hamas, led Ukraine, among others, to desire its purchase.
Kyiv began a pressure campaign on law makers in Washington to facilitate a deal. The Ukrainians also officially requested the U.S. to deploy American patriot missile systems and the Iron Dome in their territory last spring, before a Russian invasion of the country became a real possibility.
The Biden administration and members of Congress from both parties, were inclined to adopt a more aggressive position over Russia’s continued aggressions in eastern Ukraine.
But some in Congress, wanting to exert more pressure on Biden, have included an amendment attached to the 2022 defense bill that would pressure the White House to sell or transfer air and missile defense systems to Ukraine, including the Iron Dome.
“Given the desire and bipartisan recognition that more needs to be done on the integrated air defense front for the Ukrainians, and given some of the administration’s policy decisions towards Ukraine recently, there’s a desire to try and do more to help them than what the Biden team is doing,” said the staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Politico reported last September.
The amendment required the Pentagon to submit a report to Congress outlining options for the potential sale or transfer of “existing systems” to Ukraine.
According to Politico, the U.S. purchased two batteries from the Rafael Defense Industries, that are currently being prepared to be operational next year.
The system is not integrated into the U.S. anti-missile defenses, military sources said in the report.
This placed Israel in a complicated position. It could refuse the U.S. request to supply Ukraine with the technology, or risk confrontation with Russia.
Israel informed the administration in unofficial talks, that it could not agree to such a move given its relationship with Moscow.
Ukraine then approached the Bennett government directly. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Kan Public Broadcasting in an interview earlier this month of his governments’ desire to purchase the defensive system as well as their request from the U.S. to receive a Patriot Missile battery.
Washington was convinced by Israel’s arguments and the possible sale was taken off the table.